December 2014 update: Quintessence of Dust is on a long-term hiatus, but I haven't closed it down just yet. I have some new writing projects in various stages of planning, in collaboration with some old friends. The description below applies to my beliefs when I created the blog in 2007. Many of these statements are no longer accurate, but they provide context for things I wrote through 2012 or so.
On my Reformed Christianity
On my About page, I identify myself as a Reformed Christian. While that designation is not as ambiguous as, say, "Baptist," it is true that people can mean various things when they say they are Reformed. The church that I attend is part of a denomination called the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), which published a document called "What It Means To Be Reformed" that identifies various strands of the tradition. A glance through that brochure or related documents illustrates the somewhat cacophonous nature of the Reformed tradition. That said, I do think that I am best described as Reformed for these reasons (and others):
- I emphasize the sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to salvation. God gets what he wants. People don't "get God," he gets them. One does not invite God into one's life, one is drawn by God.
- I emphasize the goodness of creation and the ongoing nature of redemption. I don't believe the world is essentially evil or that it belongs to anyone other than God.
- I emphasize common grace.
Nevertheless, I find some traditional beliefs of many Reformed communities to be unworkable. Specifically, I reject the assertion that all of humanity descends from a single ancestral couple and, more importantly, I do not believe that human antecedents ever lived in a Paradise as depicted in Reformed confessions. This means that I don't line up with traditionally Reformed beliefs concerning the fall of humanity and original sin. (I do not mean to assert that there was never a fall or that Christian confessions concerning a fall from grace are completely wrong.) Moreover, while I do believe Scripture to be authoritative, I also acknowledge its essential humanness and reject a certain biblicism that is often associated with traditional Reformed belief. To many Reformed Christians, these equivocations seem unremarkable; to others, they amount to a repudiation of Reformed belief.
In any case, I believe that ecumenical creeds capture the essence of Christianity, and I note that these creeds all fail to emphasize or even mention the specifics of the fall. Thus, while I acknowledge the importance of questions surrounding the fall and human sin, I reject any claim that the truth or power of the gospel depends on the answers. In fact, I consider such claims to be potentially dangerous errors to the extent they tie the effectiveness of the gospel to anything other than the work of Christ.
My perspective on the world is strongly naturalistic, meaning:
- I expect natural causation. I do not look for supernatural causation, because I believe it to be incredibly rare.
- I recognize no important distinction between natural and supernatural causation, because I believe God exercises sovereignty over a creation in which natural explanation is highly successful. Thus I reject concerns that natural explanations "rule out God."
I am a critic of the intelligent design movement, and I consider most of its work to be of very poor quality. However, I do not reject the suggestion that the creation evinces design, and I agree that design is detectable – at least in principle – in the world. I acknowledge the possibility that the creation could have been front-loaded and/or that evolutionary trajectories could be shown to have structure in ways that would suggest direction or purpose, although I believe that such approaches have yet to display explanatory power. Moreover, because I hold supernatural explanation to be unimportant, I view any failure of design-based explanation to be inconsequential.